Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Creepy Crawling: The Descent (2005) Review

Sarah (Shauna Macdonald), Juno (Natalie Mendoza), and Beth (Alex Reid) are a trio of care free adventurers until their world is turned upside down by the sudden death of Sarah's husband and daughter in a tragic accident. A year after the accident Juno decides to get the band back together and organises a caverning expedition in the Appalachian Mountains for the trio and another three friends. Seeds of doubt about Juno's true intentions are sown early and it's not long before the expedition turns pear shaped. The six women find themselves lost in an uncharted cave system, and the seemingly neurotic Sarah believes they are not alone.

I've seen so many horror movies, and am so accustomed to all the techniques used to shock audiences it's pretty rare for jump scares to catch me off guard these days. Such is the talent of Neil Marshall, however, that I damn near leapt through the back of my seat on more than one occasion whilst watching The Descent.

But there's more than just well orchestrated "boo" moments on offer here. The claustrophobic nature of crawling through caves is so well captured you almost feel like you’re stuck in these ridiculously confined spaces right along with the women. With the way Marsall shoots this film, merely being stuck in these caves is creepy enough, but when the real threat to the women’s life emerges The Descent really ratchets up the tension.

Some might complain about the weak characterisations (particularly of the three additional friends) but we get enough of an insight into the principle characters of Sarah and Juno to care about what happens to them.

Another thing that impressed me about this film was the lighting. Too often in horror movies when there is no logical no source of light, film-makers light the scene anyway (check out the little known New Zealand horror film The Locals for the absolute worst example of what I'm talking about). In a pitch black cavern the only light that should exist is the light from the girls' torches, flares and glow sticks. Marshall mostly adheres to this, which is commendable given the number of horror films that don't.

After the cooler than cool Dog Soldiers it was great to see such a promising director follow up with what is arguably an even better film.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Misnomer Monday

You just know when film-makers shove the word "final" in the title it most probably won't be. This film's misnomer title is kinda cool because it's actually a double barrelled misnomer. As New Nightmare and Freddy Vs Jason proved, this 1991 outing did not signal Freddy's death, nor was it the final nightmare.

So, to the inevitable question: what should it have been called?

Freddy Doesn't Die: Ever?
A Nightmare On Elm Street 6: The Dream Anaglyph Glasses?
A Nightmare On Elm Street 6: Freddy Walks Into a Bar...?

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Quick BIQ Review: The Last House On The Left (1972)

There are a number of cinematic heuristics that hold true for most movie goers. Things like: sequels are generally not as good as the originals, and: all Uwe Boll movies suck. After seeing The Last House On The Left, there’s another I’d like to suggest, and that is: notorious 70’s horror movies are never as shocking as they are reputed to be.

I imagine The Last House On The Left may have been shocking in 1972, but today it’s just, well, a patchy old horror movie. I say “patchy” because everything from the direction, to the performances, to the cinematography, to the story itself, are all over the shop. The performances of the three main “bad guys” are solid and the scenes where they torment their victims are effective. However, the performances of the victim’s parents are woefully unconvincing and when combined with the exploitative plotting in the later stages of the film the whole thing just becomes laughably inept.

After finally seeing this notorious film I just kept wondering what all the fuss was about.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Turdsday Movie Review: Rampage: The Hillside Strangler Murders (2006)

I wasn't very impressed with the unscary, unfunny horror/comedy Club Dread. But shinning like a diamond in that pile of poo was the stunning Brittany Daniel. Naturally, after seeing Club Dread, I was keen to see more of Ms Daniel, so when I read that she had the lead role and appeared naked in the direct-to-video release Rampage: The Hillside Strangler Murders… well, let’s just say I rented this movie for all the wrong reasons.

Rampage: The Hillside Strangler Murders starts rather ominously: with an opening credit sequence that has no opening credits. The camera swirls around capturing glimpses of red light district neons before fading to black. The screen remains black for a while, before we get more swirling neons, and another fade to black, more swirling neons, more black, and so it goes on, like we’re supposed to be watching the opening credits… but there are none. Apparently Chris Fisher, the director of this train wreck, decided to move the credits to the end of the film, but it never occurred to him to get rid of the opening sequence designed to house them. Good grief.

From this bewildering opening onwards, the camera never stops moving in Rampage. It constantly, incessantly, swirls around and around and around and around the subjects it's filming. Watching this wretched film is like riding the Gravitron for an hour and a half. It took quite a great deal of self control for me to hold down my dinner while watching this spectacularly ill-conceived film.

For those interested in a plot synopsis, I think it was basically some derivative nonsense about a shrink (Brittany Daniel) and a serial killer (Clifton Collins Jr.), but I was just too distracted by my motion sickness to really take any of it in. According to people who know more about the real hillside strangler murder cases than I do, this film is wildly inaccurate.

Not even a naked Brittany Daniel could save this truly dreadful film.

Rampage: The Hillside Strangler Murders is exclusively available on DVD, but you could experience pretty much the same thing for less money if you simply held a picture of Brittany Daniel at arm’s length and gave yourself a wizzy dizz.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Top 20 Horror Movies

The seminal high preistess of horror blogging, Ms Stacie Ponder (aka Final Girl), has put the call out for everyone's top 20 horror movies (Linkety-Link). Why? It matters not. It's not our job to question, it's our job to create lists.

So, putting together a list of one's favourite 20 horror movies should be pretty simple, right? Wrong, douchebag! It's a god-forsaken nightmare, more frightening than any movie that might actually make it onto any resultant list.

What should be included? What should be excluded? Is Pretty Women really a "horror" movie? These are the inevitable questions one must grapple with if one is to produce a Top 20 Horror Movies list of any credence. We have until the 26th of this month to finalise our lists so I'm taking my time and thinkin' out loud, here's what I have so far...

01. Psycho (1960)
02. Scream (1996)
03. A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984)
04. Ring, The (2002)
05. Alien (1979)
06. Orphanage, The (2007)
07. Rec (2007)
08. April Fool's Day (1986)
09. Evil Dead, The (1981)
10. An American Werewolf In London (1981)
11. Funny Games (2007)
12. Descent, The (2005)
13. Rosemary's Baby (1968)
14. Identity (2003)
15. Skeleton Key, The (2005)
16. Saw (2004)
17. Eden Lake (2008)
18. Psycho II (1983)
19. New Nightmare (1994)
20. Donkey Punch (2008)

Reserves - Movies I'd like to have in the list that I can't quite squeeze in
Child's Play (1988)
Dog Soldiers (2002)
Exorcist, The (1973)
High Tension (2003)
Open Water (2003)
Pathology (2008)
Serpent and the Rainbow (1988)
Sixth Sense, The (1999)
Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Toga Party Massacre: 300 (2006) Review

One of the most disappointing things about the DVD release of 300 is that it doesn’t come with a coupon to order the Wenham Workout video. If I can briefly steal from the vernacular of Friday Night Football commentators, David Wenham is HUGE!, in 300. He’s so pumped up that I suspect if you were to stick a pressure gauge up his butt it would register well over 200 PSI.

But I well and truly digress.

When King Leonidas (Gerard Butler) learns that a Persian invasion of Sparta is imminent, as a matter of Spartan law, he seeks permission from the religious elders to deploy the Spartan army to fight the Persians and defend Sparta. The elder’s make the suicidal decision of declining his request (notch that up as another win for religion), so he instead hand picks 300 Spartan warriors and goes for a stroll to the Hot Gates, a narrow pass the Persians must traverse in order to concur Sparta. Here, the King and his brave, buff, toga party fend off wave after wave of Persian attacks, in between yelling quite a bit about glory and death.

Visually, 300 is simply stunning. I can’t honestly recall a film this visually striking. But it seems that so much effort has gone into making the film look good no one seemed terribly concerned about whether the story could sustain proceedings for 2 hours, and it really doesn’t.

The first battle is entertaining, but each subsequent attack by the Persians becomes less and less interesting. Seeing a man being impaled with a large spear in a shower of computer generated blood is fun once or twice but after the 57th slow-mo impaling it all becomes a bit monotonous. I guess I was expecting excitement and tension, the likes of which I experienced when I first saw the mother of all battle-against-the-odds movies Zulu. But 300 doesn’t really deliver in this regard. It’s more akin to watching someone else play a video game… with cool graphics!

Gerard Butler does a tremendous job delivering his lines with conviction and gusto. He plays a very straight bat, and you can almost believe that someone, at some point, may have actually acted and spoken this way, but the same can’t be said for David Wenham. The silly voice he puts on is at complete odds with his newly acquired physique, and an affirmation that he was completely the wrong actor for the role of the King’s messenger man Dilios.

For me 300 is a classic example of a 2.5 star film, it’s not a failure, but it’s not one I’d readily recommend.

Friday, September 17, 2010

WTF Friday

He is Sir Robert, and he's come to play for you...

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Quick BIQ Review: The Devil’s Rejects (2005)

One could be forgiven for thinking that the title of this puerile schlock was a reference to Rob Zombie’s screenplays. It, instead, refers to the merry band of mass murderers that Mr Zombie introduced us to in 2002’s House of 1000 Corpses and what theses unwashed, potty-mouthed, lunatics have been up to since the events of that film. In case anyone cares.

I give credit to alleged musician turned film-maker, Rob Zombie, for not calling his sequel House of 2000 Corpses, and the fact that it’s one of the few contemporary movies to revisit the 70’s in a way that actually feels like you’re watching a 70’s flick. But it’s there that my faint praise for this film has to stop and make way for the inevitable observation that The Devil’s Rejects is a completely juvenile piece of work that’s even less effective than it’s fairly ineffective predecessor.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Misnomer Monday

I'm not the first person to point out the fact that the events of I Still Know What You Did Last Summer actually take place two summers after "What You Did", making this sequel's title a misnomer.

So, what should it have been called?

I Know What You Did Two Summers Ago?

Watch Us Crap On The Memory Of What Kevin Williamson Did Last Summer?

I Now Know That You Knew Last Summer That I Then Knew What You Did The Summer Before That?

Quick BIQ Review: House of 1000 Corpses (2002)

It's probably pointless mentioning how ridiculous it is that a group of conspicuous side-show freaks that live in a house covered in all manner of bizarre Halloween paraphernalia could possibly get away with killing 1000 people and not somehow, at some time, raise the suspicion of at least one, of the many, law enforcement agencies operating in the US.

Yep, a complete waste of time.

So, I’ll just say that House of 1000 Corpses is silly, juvenile, and not the least bit scary. Alleged musician, turned film director, Rob Zombie (ooh, scary name) is so obviously trying to shock, it fails to do so for pretty much that reason. Sid Haig’s inspired performance, is the only real highlight in this grisly piece of schlock.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Misnomer Monday

OK, so what should it have been called?

Friday The 13th Part IV: Back To The 2nd Dimension?
Friday The 13th Part IV: Jason Versus Edgar Frog?
Friday The 13th Part IV: We're Not Even Halfway Yet?

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Quick BIQ Review: When A Stranger Calls (2006)

If ever there was a film ripe for remaking it would have to be the original When A Stranger Calls. It’s opening act is probably the best horror/thriller movie sequence ever filmed, but the rest of it was a plodding, dull detective story that seemed completely incompatible with the tone of the opening act. When I first heard that When A Stranger Calls was being remade with the first act from the original being the main focus of the new film I thought “what a bloody great idea.” Now I’m not so sure.

Director Simon West does the best he can but he has several things working against him: Firstly, it turns out that the basic premise is just too thin to stretch to feature length. Secondly, the killer moment that so shocked audiences in the original is no longer a surprise and therefore lacks the impact of the original. And lastly, it appears as though he was confined by the studio to deliver a film that could pass with a PG-13 rating in the US. The end result, whilst not great, is still not as bad as it’s reputed to be and not nearly as bad as it could have been. It’s reasonably suspenseful in some parts and wisely short.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Quick BIQ Review: Tamara (2005)

A dowdy high school girl with a penchant for witchcraft is accidentally killed in a school prank gone wrong, only to return as a super vixen to avenge her death. Tamara is one of those films that, by all objective measures, has to be classified as a turkey, but despite this I still enjoyed it. The film lacks suspense, it’s confused about who we’re supposed to empathise with, some of the performances are awful, and a lot of the dialogue is dire. Nonetheless, I still derived some sort of perverse enjoyment watching Tamara strut around in her short skirts and was generally amused by the whole thing.